Where the Earth meets the Sky
A Modern Parable by Briseadh na Faire
The young man flopped his rucksack down underneath the giant oak and picked through the contents, looking for something to eat. He was muttering beneath his breath and swatting at the flies that annoyed him. Soon he was dining on a morsel of dried meat, some bread and water from a drinking gourd.
A Traveler in a white robe came up the path near the oak. He had a birch walking staff, and various pouches were tied to the cord ’round his waist. The Traveler paused, leaned on his staff and looked at the young man. “It’s a fine day.” he said.
“It would be nicer if it were a bit cooler,” replied the young man, “and if there weren’t so many flies.” he added.
“True.” said the Traveler as he closed his eyes for a moment. A cool breeze came up from the East, and a dragonfly zipped by gathering its meal for the day. “Where are you headed?” asked the Traveler.
“To the horizon.” said the young man, speaking as he bit into the bread.
“The horizon?” asked the Traveler. “That’s a long journey. What is it you seek?”
“Years ago I went to a wise man and asked him where I would find enlightenment. He told me to go and sell all I had and give him the proceeds, because enlightenment is very precious.” replied the young man.
“And did you?” The Traveler approached the shade and sat next to the young man.
“Yes.” the young man continued, washing down another bite of bread. “And then he told me the secret.”
“The secret to enlightenment. I was so excited I could barely contain myself.” The young man paused. He was about to share the secret to a complete stranger; the secret that had cost him everything he owned to purchase. He looked at the Traveler, who removed a pear from one of the pouches on his belt and began eating. “This man is poor, he has nothing,” the young man thought. “He cannot afford the secret.” And the young man felt compassion for the Traveler, for although enlightenment is indeed precious, it should also be shared.
The young man leaned towards the Traveler and said in a low voice, “Enlightenment is on the horizon. When I reach the horizon, I will reach enlightenment. You can come with me if you like.”
The Traveler took another bite of the sweet pear and drew in the dirt beneath the great oak; a line cutting through a circle. “Tell me,” the Traveler asked, “where is the horizon?”
“Why, it’s where the earth meets the sky.” the young man exclaimed.
“And how long have you been traveling towards the horizon?” continued the Traveler.
“Three years now.” was the young man’s answer.
“I should think that would be quite long enough.” responded the Traveler as he finished the pear. He placed the core near an ant hill.
“What do you mean?” the young man felt slightly insulted. He had traveled a great distance in three years, crossing plains and mountains and deserts and oceans. He was getting closer to the horizon with every step. Surely a few more days, a week, a month at most, and he would be on the horizon.
The Traveler drew another circle. “Look to the east.” he said as he drew a short line at the east of the circle. “To the south, the west, the north.” and the circle had four short lines at each point of the compass. “If you had the eyes of an eagle, you might see someone standing on the horizon any direction you look.”
“The enlightened ones!” the young man’s heart danced in his breast. The Traveler sighed and an eagle cried plaintively overhead.
“Why do you say that?” the Traveler asked.
“Because they are standing where the sun meets the sky!” was the young man’s reply.
“Look above you, past the leaves of the oak. What do you see?” directed the Traveler.
“The sky, of course.”
“And below you?”
“The earth.” replied the young man. “What is your point?”
“The point is,” and the Traveler leaned in, “that where you are sitting, right here beneath this oak, on this very spot, is where the earth meets the sky.”
The young man pulled back as if he had just been struck a blow on the forehead. He blinked in uncomprehending disbelief. Ants were rejoicing at the gift left by the Traveler as they hurried to devour the remains of the pear and bring its sweet fruit into their nest.
“If you stand and go over to that stone,” the Traveler continued, “you will be standing where earth meets the sky. And if you climb that hill,” he pointed to a nearby hill, “or descend into that pit, you will be where the earth meets the sky. No matter where you go, you will be where the earth meets the sky.”
“But,” the young man stammered, “but, that means enlightenment is … is everywhere!”
The Traveler smiled and stood. Sunlight filtered through the leaves of the oak, striking the back of his head, giving it the appearance of a golden glow. The eagle cried again as it circled overhead. The young man looked up to catch a glimpse of the bird. When he looked back again, the Traveler was gone.
“Enlightenment is everywhere.” the young man thought, as a new excitement filled his being. He stood up in the shade beneath the giant oak, took a deep breath, and started off in a new direction.
(copyright 2006 Briseadh na Faire)
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